Michels received 43 percent of the vote to defeat car dealer Russ Darrow, who received 30 percent, State Sen. Bob Welch (23 percent), and attorney Robert Gerald Lorge (4 percent).
Michels, the owner of a construction company, will meet two-term U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold in the general election Nov. 2.
Campaign spokesperson Amy St. John said Michels is ready for the challenge.
“[Feingold’s] an incumbent and voters need a good reason to oust an incumbent,” St. John said. “Tim absolutely delivers a contrast in message.”
There were few indications going into the election as to which candidate would pull away from the pack. Excluding Lorge, who most viewed as a long shot, different camps saw the race going to any of the three candidates.
Darrow, a Wisconsin car dealer, arguably brought the most name recognition to the race, as well as the most money. Others pointed to Welch’s experience in the state legislature to show why he would ultimately prevail.
“Welch should have the leg up, because both Darrow and Michels are amateurs making their first big run, which is normally not a good recommendation for winning a nomination,” UW political science professor Charles Franklin said before polls closed Tuesday.
“What’s surprising, though, is that Darrow and Michels have out-raised Welch [financially]. Still, Welch has strong support from conservative Republicans. What it boils down to is, a while back I probably would have said Welch, but right now, I have no clue.”
The Michels campaign was confident going in that their man would win in the end.
“We were very confident because of our momentum, and our volunteers are coming out of the woodwork,” St. John said, adding that internal polling done by the campaign had pointed to favorable results. “But [polling] does not determine voter turnout. We are pleasantly pleased.”
Looming large for Michels now stands Feingold. The Democrat has decried what he viewed as negative campaigning from the Republicans during the last month, and has challenged the primary winner to five debates.
Franklin says Feingold, although not unbeatable, will present a formidable challenge.
“Six months ago, everybody thought Feingold was vulnerable, with everyone saying that we can go after him on the Patriot Act, and on bringing home the bacon,” Franklin said. “Now, based on the polls, Feingold looks in better shape than six months ago. He’s improved his position a good bit.”
But St. John wasn’t willing to concede an inch Tuesday.
“We’re pleased, but November is the end.”
Magnum sweeps 2nd Congressional District Republican primary
Ron Greer will not get the chance to test whether the third time is the charm in Wisconsin’s 2nd Congressional District. The former Madison firefighter, who ran for the House seat unsuccessfully in 1998 and 2002, succumbed to radio entrepreneur Dave Magnum in the primary Tuesday, 39 percent to 61 percent.
Magnum, the owner of eight radio stations throughout the state, celebrated his victory with supporters at Madison’s Dining & Diversions Tuesday night.
Although relatively new to the political arena, Magnum has the ability to reach across party lines and attract a wide range of voters, according to campaign director Adam Peer.
Magnum called Greer a “fierce competitor,” but said he was confident he would win.
“While I was never taught to count my chickens before they hatch, I must confess that in a whirlwind tour over the past few days, I did not write a confession speech on my laptop. I wrote this one,” Magnum asserted.
While Greer ran on strongly conservative values on issues such as marriage and abortion, many view Magnum as a more moderate candidate. Magnum preached the need to honor social security and assist small businesses in his acceptance speech, as well as preaching the fiscal responsibility he learned from his company.
Magnum said his general election opponent, U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, has been an enemy of small business during her time in Washington D.C.
“We need to put our one seat at our nation’s table back to work,” he said. “[Baldwin has] had six years. We need to sincerely thank her, and move forward.”
Baldwin was busy in Washington Tuesday, but issued a statement concerning the primary.
“I congratulate both Ron Greer and Dave Magnum for their decision to seek public office,” Baldwin stated. ” I look forward to campaigning on my strong record of service to the people of south central Wisconsin in Congress.”
In Magnum’s corner is the man Baldwin succeeded in the 2nd District, former Congressman Scott Klug, who is serving as Magnum’s honorary campaign chairman. Peer said Klug has “helped immensely” in the campaign.
But perhaps the truest endorsement Tuesday night came from one of Magnum’s sons, Reid.
“[My dad] said he was going to challenge Tammy in ways that she’s never been challenged before,” the 10-year-old said. “This is amazing; I’m going to sleep well tonight.”
Miller defeats Hebl in 16th Senate District Democratic primary
Mark Miller beat out Democratic opponent Tom Hebl, 58 percent to 42 percent, to win the 16th Senate District primary.
Miller, who worked as a state representative for the 48th District since 1999, will now go on to face Republican nominee Eric Peterson in the Nov. 2 general election for former Senate Majority Leader Chuck Chvala’s seat.
Chvala, embroiled in a scandal of pay-to-play politics and standing accused of using state money for political purposes, did not seek re-election to the Senate seat.
Miller’s major platform during the race was the need for a better health-care system, and he has stated he plans to introduce a universal health care bill.
“If you don’t belong to a large employer, it’s difficult to get quality health care,” Miller said in a phone interview. “We could use the money we’re currently spending [for administrative purposes] and divert it to provide health care to the uninsured.”
Miller’s major platforms — health-care reform and the environment — stand in contrast to those of Republican opponent Eric Peterson, who emphasizes tax relief for Wisconsin families and businesses.
Miller points to the recent Capitol scandals as examples of how special interests control politics, and has vowed to represent the interests of his constituents, not the interests of big-money donors.
Grothman takes out Panzer in 20th Senate District Republican primary
The Republican primary for the state’s 20th Senate District was a one-sided affair Tuesday. State Assemblyman Glenn Grothman swamped Senate Majority Leader Mary Panzer in a race pitting incumbent against incumbent.
The margin of victory — 79 percent of the vote — was highly unexpected, said Grothman campaign spokesperson Jenny Frederick.
“I knew we would be strong, but I thought we would get 65 percent, maybe 70 percent,” Frederick said. “I did not expect this percentage.”
Grothman announced his challenge for Panzer’s seat in July, saying Panzer was not enough of a pro-life advocate and blaming her for failing to adequately promote and discuss the Taxpayer Bill of Rights.
In a concession statement, Panzer pled for party unity.
“I am asking that Senate Republicans return to the Capitol for a caucus at 10 a.m. on Friday. At that time, I will resign my position as Senate Majority Leader and ask the members of the Caucus to elect a new leader to direct Senate Republicans to a larger majority in November,” Panzer stated.
“We have outstanding candidates working very hard and they deserve the support of our Caucus and Republicans statewide … I will continue to do whatever I can to help our candidates be successful on November 2.”
Grothman will go largely unopposed in the general election, because the 20th District is heavily Republican, UW political science professor Charles Franklin said Tuesday.
— Annie Dean contributed to this article